Jaguar staring from the bush in Kruger National Park

Safari Guide: Kruger National Park

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Niarra Travel

Home to abundant wildlife both great and small, diverse landscapes and some of the most beautiful lodges in Africa, the Kruger National Park offers an unparalleled experience for both first timers and experienced safari-goers alike. Only slightly smaller than Belgium, the park is situated in north-eastern South Africa spanning an area of just under 20,000 sqkm.

The history of the Kruger National Park

Originally established as the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, the area was first set aside as a reserve well over 200 years ago in 1898. Back then, the reserve was much smaller – only half its current size, but still vast at over 10,000 sqkm.

It was in the 1920s, amid a growing influx of tourists arriving on train tours, that the park expanded by merging with the Shingwedzi Game Reserve and adjacent farms. Renamed after the then-South African President Paul Kruger, it was officially proclaimed as a national park in 1926.

Singita Kruger National Park lioness

At the time there was no official accommodation for visitors, tourists could come and go as they pleased, and roads were not much more than dusty or muddy tracks – but soon thereafter, work commenced on more formal infrastructure, with 1,200km of roads built by the 1930s. Even during wartime, the Kruger Park continued to grow in popularity, with royals visiting along with thousands of tourists, and in the 1960s, the first big camp was built – Olifants, which remains open to this day, with many more added in the decades that followed.

In more recent history, fences between the Kruger National Park and other surroundings parks have been dropped, leading to the creation of a much larger Greater Kruger area and allowing for wildlife to move more freely, reviving ancient migratory routes.

The best time to visit the Kruger National Park

It is important to factor in your personal interests before deciding when would be the best time to go to the Kruger National Park. Whether you are a birdwatcher photographer, interested in seeing baby animals or keen to rather focus on large predators – all these preferences will dictate which time of year would be best for your Kruger safari. The weather at Kruger National Park varies throughout the year and is essentially divided into two distinct seasons.

Summer Rainy Season - November to April

Average Temperature: 20°C - 32 °C

Average Daily Rainfall: 85mm

As the rains arrive – usually in November and at their peak in January and February, the Kruger landscape is blanketed in verdant green grasses, shrubs and trees, attracting remarkable migrant birds that travel great distances to spend each summer in the park. The mornings are beautiful, while it can get hot during the afternoon, leading to impressive late afternoon rains, that when in full force, will fill up sandy riverbeds completely transforming the landscape overnight. Those fortunate enough to witness one of these powerful storms first-hand are in for a treat, as the ecosystem celebrates the arrival of life-giving waters.

AF SA Northern Kruger Pafuri Tented Camp15

This is the best time to see abundant young animals, with many species waiting to give birth when food and water are at their most abundant. As the grass grows longer and the trees get fuller, it can be slightly more challenging to spot wildlife through the thick bush, but photographers will be able to take advantage of the dramatic skies and beautiful colour contrasts.

Dry Season – May to October

Average Temperature: 11°C - 25°C

Average Daily Rainfall: 16mm

Many consider the Southern Hemisphere winter the best time to go on safari, as the vegetation decreases making wildlife easier to see, and many animals congregate around waterholes. If you are keen to see big cats, along with other charismatic mammals like elephants, buffalo and rhino, the dry season is probably the best time to book your Kruger safari.

The weather tends to be dry and mild, although mornings and nights can be chilly – and there are far fewer creepy crawlies out and about. The winter months are also best for walking safaris, as it becomes easier to track animals on foot.

Malewane rhino safari kruger

Wildlife in the Kruger National Park

If diversity is what you are looking for, there is no better safari destination than the Kruger which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve – 147 in total. On top of that, the Kruger National Park is also home to 114 reptile, 51 snake, 49 fish and 508 bird species. Along with iconic wildlife like lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos, you are likely to come across abundant savannah species like giraffes, zebras, impalas, kudus and many more. If you are fortunate, you may also spot special predators like cheetahs, wild dogs, jackals and hyenas.

The wildlife can vary depending on which part of the park you are visiting. The southern portion of Kruger with its huge savannah-like landscape is regarded as the most abundant when it comes to plains game, but it would be a mistake to overlook the baobab and fever-tree forest environment found up north – a favourite stomping ground for leopards and far away from the crowds.

No matter which part of the park you decide to visit, the waterholes and dams are always a hive of activity, filled with grunting hippos, sunbathing crocodiles, a huge array of waterbirds and various species coming to quench their thirst, from vervet monkeys and baboons to huge herds of antelope and elephants in need of a mud bath.

Serondella Kruger 8

The best lodges in the Kruger National Park

Epic early morning drives as the sun peeks over the horizon, abundant and glorious feasts, often cooked over an open fire, and warm hospitality are all trademarks of a luxury safari lodge – but there are also unique aspects to every property, which is why it is helpful to have someone with first-hand experience guide you on your journey to find the perfect fit.

That said, there are a few extra special lodges among the Kruger National Park accommodation options that never fail to surprise and delight our guests.

Singita Lebombo

Nestled in the Lebombo Mountain Range in south-eastern Kruger National Park, Singita Lebombo is a contemporary lodge with glass-walled suites, drawing inspiration from the design of eagles’ nests. Enjoy the beautiful river view over a steaming cup of coffee and a delicious baked treat, while at night the sky is filled with a million stars, with the option of a luxurious sleep-out experience on a raised wooden deck in the great outdoors.

Singita Lebombo Lodge Luxury

Simbavati Camp George

Situated in the Greater Kruger in the wild Klaserie Game Reserve, which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park, Simbavati Camp George is a small luxury safari lodge perfect for couples, families and friends. There are just eight luxury suites, each with a private deck and deep-soaking tub. This is undoubtedly one of the best places in Kruger to enjoy walking safaris, encountering the smaller creatures often missed on game drives.

Simbavati Trails Camp pool south africa

Dulini River Lodge

Also sharing a boundaryless border with the Kruger National Park, Dulini River Lodge is in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, widely regarded as the best private game reserve in all South Africa. Here you’ll find six riverside suites, each with a plunge pool looking out over the Sand River. You’re unlikely to ever be served a meal in the same place – in the bush, on a lookout deck, or in the boma.

Dulini River Lodge 10

All these lodges also have impactful conservation and community-focused programmes that we would love to tell you more about.

At Niarra Travel we believe in connecting your journey with purpose, carefully selecting partners that have a marked positive impact on the ground and deliver unique experiences.

If you are interested in booking a tailor-made, once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Kruger National Park, please get in touch with our team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US) or at and we will begin crafting your dream South African safari today.

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